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EU entry will boost Croatia's stagnating economy: president

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(ZAGREB) - EU membership will boost Croatia's stagnating economy, President Ivo Josipovic said Monday, just days before Croatians are due to vote on EU entry in a referendum here.

"An even greater openness and exposure to competition, know-how and education (that come with EU membership) are a remedy for economic stagnation," Josipovic said in a meeting with diplomats stationed in Zagreb.

"Like the other 27 countries Croatia will not give up its sovereignty by becoming an EU member. Croatia will intelligently invest a part of its sovereignty in the most prosperous political and economic community in the world," the president said, as Croatians prepare to go to the polls on Sunday to say if they back EU entry, planned for July 2013.

The latest polls showed that some 58 percent of voters will back EU membership while 23 percent said they would vote against.

"EU membership guarantees us a solid base to fulfil the creative potential of our young country," Josipovic said.

Last year Croatia registered only 0.4 percent economic growth according to estimates by the Croatian central bank. It has been hard hit by the global economic downturn which kept many tourists away.

In 2012 the country risks falling back into recession according to the forecasts of the national bank and World Bank estimates.

In December last year Croatia signed the accession treaty which should see it become the EU's 28th member in July 2013 if Croatian voters back the move in the referendum and all 27 EU members ratify the treaty.

After Slovenia in 2004 Croatia will be only the second of the six former Yugoslav republics to join the European bloc.

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